N the recent past, Director and Spokesperson at the Ministry of Information and Media, Thabo Kawana, earned a lot of media attention – not for good reasons, but notoriety.
He is reported to have imposed himself on talk show programmes featuring government opponents.
Just when he was appointed, I shared some public concerns. I want to reaffirm my original position in this post.
I felt then and still do now that Mr Kawana really worked hard as propaganda chief at UPND Alliance secretariat.
He deserved a job but not where President Hakainde Hichilema has placed him because he was likely to underperform.
He was simply up against many factors including institutional and personality factors which would make him fail. Two of these relate to the job description as director of information (I doubt about media) and other is spokesmanship.
As director of the information, like many critics, I have little to say because I do know his CV and whether it is relevant to the intricacies of the public information management system required at the Ministry of Information and Media.
We are however aware that this was not a professional, but political appointment, so, President Hichilema had his own expectations and I assume he wanted him to be spokesperson to complement, the Minster of Information and Media, Ms Chushi Kasanda.
Those who are familiar with Mr Kawana from the days of his active participation in civil society to his involvement in mainstream politics, would testify that he is good at public speaking. He is also a fast learner which is good for public policy articulation.
To be a spokesperson at that ministry did not require depth of specialisation like the Bank of Zambia, because he was to operate from the generalist perspective. He only required at least awareness of the macro picture. Which he has. So, why underperformance?
The answer is simple and lies in the lack of role clarity among the three officers with authority as official spokespersons, besides Mr Kawana as the director; there is the Minister herself, Ms Kasanda and the Permanent Secretary, Mr Kennedy Kalunga.
Mr Kawana is very competitive and combative. Given space, he is domineering and inclined towards politicking. The ideal space would have been creating a fulltime job within the Alliance party secretariat with free access to mainstream and social media space with authority to speak on a wide range of issues except the Presidency.
The minister is soft spoken and so far, has been less-confident in matters that fall within the economic and financial cluster. The Permanent Secretary has failed to assert himself so that his strengths come to the fore.
Unless the three officers undertake the team building and identify individual strengths, and how those strengths are strategically deployed, the “Kawana” disaster will worsen.